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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Sexual behaviour and sexual health of Australian prisoners

Tony Butler A H , Eva Malacova B , Juliet Richters C , Lorraine Yap C , Luke Grant D , Alun Richards E , Anthony M. A. Smith F and Basil Donovan A G

A The Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

B School of Population Health, Centre for Health Services Research, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

C School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia.

D New South Wales Department of Corrective Services, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia.

E Queensland Department of Health, Brisbane, Qld 4000, Australia.

F Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Vic. 3000, Australia.

G Sydney Sexual Health Centre, Sydney Hospital, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia.

H Corresponding author. Email: tbutler@kirby.unsw.edu.au

Sexual Health 10(1) 64-73 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/SH12104
Submitted: 6 July 2012  Accepted: 11 September 2012   Published: 21 December 2012

Abstract

Objective: To describe prisoners’ sexual experiences and sexual practices while in the community, sexual identities, and sexual health (e.g. self-reported exposure to sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and female reproductive outcomes) using data from the Sexual Health and Attitudes of Australian Prisoners (SHAAP) survey. Methods: This study used a computer-assisted telephone interview to screen randomly selected prisoners using a questionnaire based on the Australian Study of Health and Relationships survey. Results: 2351 men and women prisoners from New South Wales and Queensland took part in the survey. Most men identified as heterosexual (95.7%) and reported sexual attraction (91.0%) and sexual experiences (86.6%) only with the opposite sex, but 28.5% of women prisoners identified as bisexual. Sexual attraction correlated with sexual experience (men: r = 0.63; women: r = 0.84) more than with sexual identity (men: r = 0.53; women: r = 0.54). Male prisoners reported more lifetime opposite-sex partners than women prisoners (median 24 v. 10). Women prisoners were more likely than men to report a prior STI (35.1% v. 20.0%). Conclusions: Prisoners are a high-risk group with regard to sexual health. There is a need for a better understanding of the sexual health of this population group so that education campaigns and interventions specific to this population group can be developed.

Additional keywords: bisexual, experience, heterosexual, identity, incarceration, sexual attraction.


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